The Nigerian pair of Seun Adigun and Akuoma Omeoga may have been the slowest of 20 sleds after Tuesday’s first two heats, but they became the first women to represent an African nation in the sport.
Speaking shortly after the race, Adigun was unfazed by the result. “It was every bit as special as we hoped it would be,” Adigun told BBC Sport.
“With more time and more preparation and funding I think we’re proving that we can be as competitive as everyone else,” stressed the former Nigerain hurdler.
No African nation has won a winter medal and after the first two heats the pair were last, 3.5sec behind the German leaders in a sport that measures success and defeat in hundredths of a second.
But that was not the victory they were looking for. “I don’t think it’s hit us how impactful this whole process will be in the long run,” Adigun, the pilot, said after the race. “You don’t have to quantify things by just the result of first place, second place or any time. You can actually quantify it by your ability to be selfless, your ability to drive and your ability to be innovative. This was just meant to be.”
That does not mean they were giving up and Adigun noted they had shaved a second off their training times. “That goes to show how dedicated and how resilient we’ve been on this whole journey,” she said.
After the first two heats Germany and the US were jockeying for the medal podium. Great Britain, piloted by Mica McNeill, were sixth and within striking distance of a medal. The winner is determined by the lowest cumulative time over four runs.
The Nigerians were not the only women making history. In the Cool Runnings Redux that almost did not happen, the Jamaica women’s bobsled team came in third from last. Their time was an improvement from their training runs but still left them 1.53sec behind the leading Germans.
The Jamaica pair’s debut was thrown into chaos last week when a coach unexpectedly quit and said she was taking the sled with her. That led to an offer from the brewers Red Stripe to buy a new ride. In the end there was no new sled. The team purchased the same one they had rented from a club in Winterberg, Germany after the beer company provided £35,000, according to Jamaica bobsleigh team spokeswoman Kathleen Pulito.